Match report Vs Harrogate TownVenue: AggboroughDate: 17-02-18Att: 1739 (away fans: 55)

17-02-18 - Report - Harriers 0 Harrogate Town 2

Harriers bullied into a rare home defeat

Report: Phil Lench

The Harriers crashed to their first home defeat since the opening day of the season when Chorley, another team renowned for rough house tactics, went home with the points. Today it was the turn of Harrogate Town to achieve the same outcome with the same kind of tactics employed back in August. Off the ball challenges, diving too easily, complaining to the referee at every slightest chance and then conning that same official over and over again.

Amy Fearn might be a very nice girl at home and if she has children then she is probably a very good mother but a referee she is not and the Harrogate players used every chance they could to pressure her into the wrong decisions and play on her weaker female side. Some of the decisions she came to were ludicrous and sadly so were the one’s of her assistant in front of the East Stand who wrongly turned down a perfectly reasonable goal for us when we were a goal down in the first half.

Before the game started we had a surprise to take in when it was announced that our keeper, Brandon Hall, had been injured during the week and we had bought in a keeper on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Oddly the club failed to tell us this until sixty minutes before the start of the game. He must have been registered before five o’clock yesterday to be eligible to play but it was decided to keep it a secret for reasons unknown.

We now have five keepers on our books but seem to be reticent in playing any of the other four and ironically the one that should have stepped in for Hall, Dale Eve,  is on dual registration and was playing for his other club today. His other club is in Bermuda so what the hell is he doing on a dual registration with us when we can’t call him back at short notice anyway.

There was also another injury to Joel Taylor so he wasn’t playing and then during the warm up James O’Connor got injured meaning that Sam Austin took his place in the starting eleven while onto the bench came a keeper. Tom Palmer. You couldn’t make it up.

With Harrogate fighting to make ground on Salford City for a place at the top of the table and the Harriers fighting to make ground on Brackley Town in third place this was always going to be a tough game for both teams and one that easily earned its tag of match of the day and so it proved. A cagey start for the Harriers didn’t help matters as Town probed our defence with ease. Only last gasp defending and poor targeting kept them at bay. 

Joe Leesley, for Harrogate, had the first real chance of the game with a shot that was deflected over the bar and then went on to moan at the referee about it. We responded with a shot from Elton N’Gwatala that went wide of the post. It took just a few minutes later for the visitors to take the lead when Flatt punched a ball away from a Mark Beck shot but only as far as Leesley who found space to get his shot away and this time hit the underside of the bar and in with the new keeper grabbing empty space.

Now that they had the lead they kept getting into the ear of Fearn even though they were committing 90% of the fouls with most of them coming with the referees back turned. We tried to rise above it all but you could see it was effecting us with defenders reticent to put a tackle in for fear of getting penalised. It was hard to get our passing game going too with James McQuilkin and Declan Weeks coming in for plenty of attention. In the end we reverted to the long ball game with Manny Sonupè having to chase balls down only to find himself getting tangled up in his legs or bought crashing down.

The officials struck again a few minutes later when a perfectly good looking goal was struck off for us. We had been given a free kick just outside the area – to great cheers from the Harriers faithful – and it was taken by Weeks who crashed the ball against the underside of the bar then down onto the line, maybe actually over it. As it came back the Town keeper, James Belshaw, tipped it back onto the bar and up into the air. Joe Ironside ran in, from an onside position, and put the ball into the net only for the linesman to raise his flag for offside.

Surely the keeper being the last player to touch the ball prior to Ironside heading it home meant that he had played Ironside onside? If only we had VAR at this level and a panel of judges in the studio.

We finished the half the stronger with half chances for N’Gwatala and Sonupè while the visitors seemed happy to soak it all up and smother our midfield. Apart from a possible tap in from a cross that just evaded Beck the visitors did very little. Oh, and keep diving and conning the ref.

HT: 0 – 1

The second half started in the worst possible way for us when, with only two minutes gone, Harrogate easily extended their lead when a ball came over the top and our defenders stood still to allow the former Harrier Dominic Knowles to run onto the ball and plant it into the back of the net. Flatt moved for it but was too slow and the ball went inside his far post to give Harrogate what proved to be an unassailable lead.

We tried to get back into the game but it was obvious our spirit had been broken. Dan Bradley came on in place of Declan Weeks but couldn’t make much difference. Later on a double change saw George Waring and Andre Brown come on for Ironside and Sonupè and they didn’t make much difference either.

The tactics used by Harrogate in the first half had now ended once their second goal went in an they began to show that they can be a good side without all the stupidity. They had no interest in extending their lead further but were happy to keep us contained outside the area. Our chances were limited and when we did get through we couldn’t find the target.

Bradley blazed a shot over the bar from close in and did the same again with an easier chance in the seventieth minute but we failed to really test their keeper at all. Our best chance of the half came from a Bradley cross into the box – he’s better at passing than shooting – that Waring got to but then put wide of the goal.

Another good chance came the way of Sam Austin with our only shot of the game to draw a save out of Belshaw. In the closing stages N’Gwatala sent a dipping shot over the bar that, if it had dipped a fraction earlier, would have gone in.

All in all it was a disappointing day for both team and fans alike. We had come expecting so much but went away with so little.

To combat such teams we have to be as nasty as them and get in the faces of the officials just like them. We also need to start playing two up front, like Harrogate did throughout the game, because it’s patently obvious that playing Ironside as a lone striker week in week out, and at home, is never going to work. How about trying it out at Darlington next week. Surely it won’t hurt to try will it Mr Eustace?

FT: 0 – 2

Goals for Harrogate: Leesley 14, Knowles 47

The Harriers Online MotM is: Lee Vaughan

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Latest table and stats here

Harriers Goals Subs Time Cards
Weeks   52  
Ironside   61  
Sonupè   61  
A Brown   61  
Bradley   52  
Waring   61  
Harrogate Town Goals Subs Time Cards
Thomson   74  
Knowles 71
Thewlis   71  
Agnew   74  
Ms Amy Fearn